We all have guilty pleasures in music (although I wouldn’t say that I feel “guilty” about any of my likes in music). There are always those bands and artists out there that we absolutely love, but no one seems to understand how they could possibly be liked by anyone. Although I am aware of the screamo genre’s faults (bands), there are quite a few bands that I feel have been negatively mislabeled. A question that numerous people have been asking me for YEARS is “why the hell do you like Asking Alexandria
??” Well, this review will explain precisely why I love these guys…particularly this album. I am fully aware that there are “emo/scene” screamo bands that can’t play their instruments to get tomorrow’s lunch money for school. Let me get my opinion across the table so that there aren’t any misunderstandings: Asking Alexandria
is NOT one of those bands; if you think they are, I hope you are already aware of how hard that is to accurately prove. With my absolute FAVORITE screamo albums being The Emptiness
, Lovers’ Requiem
by I Am Ghost
by The Word Alive
, all post-2003 Underoath
albums (so far), and This Means War
by Attack Attack
!, I added Stand Up and Scream
to that list almost three years ago when I bought the CD. Now let’s talk about the actual music behind this, where to start?
I know that there are plenty of other bands that do this, but Asking Alexandria
is one of the first metalcore/screamo bands to fully and SUCESSFULY merge the sounds of electronic techno music with metal. If you can point out some bands that have any pre-2009 albums that did this VERY well like Asking Alexandria
did, please drop a comment on this review, because I’m certainly not aware of any. I’m pretty sure that there were other bands out there that STARTED this trend, but Asking Alexandria
obviously brought it to everyone’s attention, and did it very well. Another band that did this before was Attack Attack
! in their 2008 debut album. The thing with that album is that it was more “metal, techno, techno with a little metal, techno, metal, etc.” Stand Up and Scream
is either one of the two opposites (techno or metal) or both of them COMPLETELY integrated. The techno used in this album actually more of a “trance” sounding thing than anything else. For those of you that aren’t aware of what trance is, it’s basically techno music that’s really mystical, atmospheric, and melodic. Unfortunately there are some less-than-impressive techno bits in this album; the most bothersome being the 1.75 minute long interlude. I don’t actually know if someone would consider it “bad” techno, it just doesn’t speak out to me in a positive way of any kind.
Here’s something I forgot to mention: if you’re someone that HATES headbanging, especially to breakdowns, this is going to be a hell of a lot harder for you to enjoy because this album is filled with extreme breakdowns. Here’s the cool thing, they all sound different, many of the breakdowns are complex, and they’re some of the best headbanging parts I’ve ever heard in the metal genre. The first track, Alerion
, is one of my favorite intro tracks ever; that is not even close to an exaggeration. Although not the BEST example, this track is still a very good example of that trance/metal integration that Asking Alexandria
pulls off so well. But before I go into a couple of the individual songs, I need to cover the different traits, qualities, and faults the BAND carries in this record.
The production quality couldn’t be any better; I’ll just leave it at that. Ok, next thing: the best musician on this album is definitely the drummer. I think most of you out there can agree with me when I say that the majority of screamo drummers tend to be mediocre. This guy expresses the ability to flawlessly keep time for the entire duration of the record, pull off FAST and occasionally complex kick drum patterns during breakdowns, and to flow smoothly with creativity, color, and raging emotion. I’m not really someone that can tell if something is generic or not unless it’s the album as a whole that’s generic. For me, if a specific member plays something that’s traditional to the genre, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing; it’s showing that the musician (either voluntarily or involuntarily) exposes the rawness of the genre (sometimes more than others). But on that topic, the Asking Alexandria
drummer only does this on occasion; and it’s very hard to notice because of everything that all the other members are doing.
When I think of screamo albums that have amazing vocals, Stand Up and Scream
is one of the better ones out of the others that come to mind. The growls that Danny lets out (actually sound a lot like mine) are EXTREMELY deep and spine-chilling. The growls that are on this album could easily be put on a death metal album (that’s right, I said it) and sound amazing. Alerion
is a track that exposes those growls by themselves to be heard clearly by all ears that listen to it. The screams are nothing short of amazing. The reason why I love the screams on this album so much is because they are clean, relentlessly powerful, they show an immense amount of agonizing emotion, and they’re very high-pitch. These two extreme opposites (deep growling and high screaming) are combined in several places throughout the album. If you thought that was enough, wait until you hear the singing. The singing on this album is a great refresher and reminder for me that the screamo genre isn’t completely made up of auto-tuned singers (although there are a couple of other really good screamo singers out there). The singing tends to be a little more in the higher end of the midrange, which makes it so that his vocals aren’t TOO deep for the music and so that he can’t be mistaken for Michael Jackson.
During the majority of the music, the guitarists stick to technical leads with traditional screamo harmonizations. During the breakdowns (and actually occasionally in the other parts), they play staccato chords in perfect synch with the kick drums. There aren’t any guitar solos in this album, which shows that either the band did feel they were necessary or the guitarists simply couldn’t come up with anything that truly enhanced the music (probably the latter). Regardless of that, the guitarists express their technical and instrumental skills with the complex riffs that are constantly flowing out of their instruments. The guitarists aren’t AMAZING, but they don’t do anything that holds the music down or limits it; which is why I don’t hold anything against them for not integrating any solos within the music. The bassist does something that you actually don’t hear very often; he primarily follows the root note, but plays it along with the kick drums. I’m assuming that this is why whatever footwork the drummer is doing stands out so much. Honestly, this isn’t a bad idea at all, but it shows quite a bit of limitation for what the bassist can do. When he’s not following the kick drums, he’s playing simple lower-end harmonizations with the guitars.
Okay, let’s talk about (ironically) my favorite song off this record, Final Episode (Let’s Change the Channel). If you aren’t already aware, there is a music video that shows these kids going absolutely nuts (more than the majority of the screamo bands I’ve seen) while blasting this crushing track (you can watch the video below). This is a song that takes all of Asking Alexandria
’s faces and sides and compresses them into one track. This song has some of the best drumming that you will hear on the album, especially regarding the kick drumming. You hear a fair amount of singing, screaming, growling, and even some yelling by the whole band. The reason why I like this song so much is the amount of energy and raging tension it holds. Most of the time, these kinds of bands build up tension to then let it all go with an exploding breakdown; instead, these guys never let up on the tension and keep the adrenaline within the listener burning at full speed. Assumingly, the lyrics of this song would be the stereotypical “pussy emo” lyrics; but actually, the message is more of a message of anger and the want for remorseless revenge. Towards the end of the song, the tension is dialed down a bit to let in the trance-sounding techno which is then built up, and dropped with one of the most emotional and most powerful breakdowns I’ve ever heard in my life (although it’s hard to imagine a breakdown being “emotional”).
Stand Up and Scream
is one of my favorite screamo albums because it holds a shitload of anger, tranquility, technicality, musicality, and flat out awesomeness. There’s nothing that I would change about this album except for either changing the interlude or just throwing it out altogether. Even if you hate this kind of music, if you’ve gotten this far into my review to see my 19/20 score, you should at least watch the music video of the song I talked about if you choose not to listen to the whole album. I would actually recommend this to everyone even though I know that many would just turn it down because of the stereotype and reputation this band has, but give these guys an honest try.